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Story Highlights

  • The Ministry of Health, through its Jamaica Moves initiative, will be training and appointing student ambassadors who will be charged with passing on the message of healthy lifestyle to their peers.
  • The initiative was recently launched in pilot schools across the island.
  • Speaking with JIS News, Regional Health and Education Promotion Officer at the Western Regional Health Authority (WRHA), Marceleen Wheatle, said that the move to appoint student ambassadors is part of the Ministry’s thrust to get more students to engage in physical activity and eat healthy.

The Ministry of Health, through its Jamaica Moves initiative, will be training and appointing student ambassadors who will be charged with passing on the message of healthy lifestyle to their peers.

The initiative was recently launched in pilot schools across the island.

Speaking with JIS News, Regional Health and Education Promotion Officer at the Western Regional Health Authority (WRHA), Marceleen Wheatle, said that the move to appoint student ambassadors is part of the Ministry’s thrust to get more students to engage in physical activity and eat healthy.

“What we have done is to develop criteria that will help us to do the selection (of the ambassadors). These students must demonstrate a willingness to practise a healthy lifestyle and promote same within their schools, be respectable to peers and teachers, be responsible, command respect and also to be disciplined,” she indicated.

She said that the intention is to increase the number of students engaging in a moderate level of physical activity and making healthier food choices by five per cent over the next five years.

“We want to increase the number of schools that would have documented students who are at risk for non-communicable diseases (NCDs), so that they will be able to have their regular health checks. The Ministry will be keeping track of these students,” Ms. Wheatle added.

She said the Ministry wants to implement one-hour physical-activity sessions in participating schools at least once per week “because we recognise that while physical education (PE) is being taught, this may not be adequate to give students the number of hours required for them to be involved in physical activity”.

“We are aiming to use a number of social marketing strategies that will help the students to learn and at the same time adopt a healthier lifestyle,” she added.

The Ministry of Health will host a camp for the high-school ambassadors in the western region from November 9 to 11 at the Caribbean School for the Deaf in Granville, St. James. Eight students and two teachers will be selected from each of the 10 pilot high schools in the region to attend the camp.

The three-day residential camp, which will also be held in other regions, will consist of half-hour-long sessions, with the main objective being to encourage healthy lifestyle choices through songs, games and competitions, that will teach students how to incorporate physical activity into regular school tasks.

“The curriculum at this camp will be exciting. We will be looking at physical activity, healthy eating and appropriate health screening. The sessions will be done in such a way that students can go back and demonstrate some of the activities under the Jamaica Moves brand,” Ms. Wheatle said.

The camp will also tackle nutritional topics. “We will have a number of demonstrations where students will be learning how to fix their lunches, how they can use fruits and vegetables in a creative way to entice the palate and give the body the nutrients it needs. We will be having our nutritionists, physical activity instructors, mental health officers and nurses, who will be on hand to participate in this camp,” Ms. Wheatle further highlighted.

Student ambassadors will also be appointed from pilot primary schools and sent to day camps at central locations in each parish at later dates.

The Jamaica Moves Initiative is currently being piloted in 24 primary and high schools in western Jamaica.